“Scotch.” Phillip Drury moaned, and waving his hand distractedly at the questioning bartender (Ice? Sir?) he drifted into the back of his chair and with a glossing of his eyes departed from the world momentarily.
Why was he on this stupid hamster wheel? As a kid he had always been so spontaneous, and bold, and so lighthearted. Recalling every picture on his refrigerator there his beaming face was; smiling like a loony boy who looked hopeful and tackily optimistic and happy. The thoughts of having once been happy seemed strange if not downright mad. What the heck was a country boy like him doing in the Big Apple? The sound of a glass being slid towards him broke his train of thought just long enough to clutch his fingers around the cool glass, and then back to his brooding he went.
He should quit his job. I’m gonna quit my job, he thought, but the delight of it was quickly severed by the thought of, And then what, sparky? Ya doof. He couldn’t quit his job, he had bills! Needed food! Had a (what was beginning to feel like an addiction) LOTR fandom that needed to be quenched and kept! He needed Netflix god dammit!
But he was starting to hate all of it. The whole world seemed ridiculous at the moment. Ludicrous. He should just quit all of it. Walk out. Hitch a backpack to himself and take to the road; see life for what it is! He took a sip of his drink, and as the sour flooded his cheeks suddenly realized he didn’t want it. He had never had a drink in his life, but drinking sorrows away is what big city dudes did, right?
Exhausted he dropped his elbow on the counter, so thunkily that it sorta hurt. His entire body hurt. A 48 hour workweek was no way to spend the majority of your life. He leaned his forehead into his hand, and sighed.
“You’re just in a mood,” he muttered to himself, “Just get yourself home, Phillip, and go to bed.”
“Having existential problems, son?”
Phillip lifted his head, and to his right saw that a dapper looking French guy (well, he looked French) had sat next to him. The man’s black mustache was absurdly twirled and thin, and his rusty hair shined like a polished penny under the lights. He wore a suit (not a normal one) and out of his breast pocket Phillip noticed a mouse-like creature, poking its tiny head out, twitching its nose in little sniffing investigations. He found himself staring and quickly sat himself up straighter.
“Um, what? No – I’m just, just having a drink.” Phillip bumbled out, befuddled at the attire of the stranger.
“Young man, the world is an onion. Full of layers!” the stranger said, speaking with a showman’s conviction and extravagance, “You have to get your fingers into the stench if you really want to see how many layers this grand old world’s got! Look at you! You got pittance for brains and a fuel tank running on cedar chips! But I like ya! No one else upstairs seems to, but I think there’s more to you!”
“Excuse me, but, what in god’s name are you talking about? Do I know you?” Phillip said, his peevish skepticism and annoyance thick and angry.
The stranger scooped his arm over Phillip, thrusting his hand into his face. “The name is Emelius Gregory Thucydides Greene, and you,” Emelius pressed, grabbing Phillip’s stunned hand and shaking it fervently, “are in luck. The Order of the Blue Stork has turned its gaze in your direction, and a new adventure is awaiting your ugly mug.”
“Hey!” Phillip protested, “Get the fu – !”
“No time for pleasantries, my good man. I have urgent business that needs to be got!” and from his sleeve Emelius snapped out a long rolled up piece of brown paper (it sorta looked like parchment; who the heck was this putz?) and cozying his chair up to Phillip’s reluctant body he pushed the scotch glass aside and in a flourish rolled the archaic looking page out upon the countertop. Phillip sat, too baffled to understand or even react to what was going on, and to his breast pocket Emelius reached, snapping his fingers as the little mouse creature dived deep into its master’s pocket and came out again with a pair of spectacles, and from the teeny paws of the animal Emelius took the spectacles (“Thank you, Artemis, dear.”) and pat the mouse on the head with one finger for its helpful deed. Placing the spectacles on his thin, long nose he turned his attention to the contract that was laid over the bar.
Wait, a contract? This was a contract!
“Sir, I think maybe you have the wrong person. I have no desire to join the circus.” Phillip plainly stated.
“Phillip Michael Drury! You have been selected – ”
“Hold it how the hell do you – !”
“You have been selected!” Emelius boomed, so loud that Phillip did a sweep around him, expecting every head in the bar to turn his way (however, strangely, no one seemed to be reacting at all), “by my hand, the great hand of Theoricus Adeptus Minor, Rodentia of the Rose! To embark on a voyage of romance, danger, beasts of deep and beauties of daring! You have been – ”
“Listen, man, I really don’t think – ”
“CHOSEN! Blessed and bestowed to you, dear horseman! Dear Greek bastion of discovery!” Emelius resounded, “I give this contract! That asserts full ownership over a journey of massive proportions! A journey so profound that it does quake the very foundations of the Overspace! A journey for the likes of Alexander the Great! Napoleon Bonaparte! Robert Smalls! Hercules himself! GANDHI! A journey so DELICIOUS, so beyond the DILETTANTE! A journey of such a caliber that it is unmentionable in mere mortal speak! Priestess of Fortuna shake in its wake! A JOURNEY – ! (Sign right here please if you’d be so kindly) A JOURNEY ONLY FOR A SOLDIER OF RADICAL, LIFE AFFIRMING CONQUEST! MAJESTIC MAGICAL MAKERS OF THE PYRAMIDS CAN NOT FATHOM WHAT YOU SHALL SEE! A JOURNEY FOR THOSE OF LIONHEART! SUPER THICK SKULLS! KINDA IMPULSIVE! QUICK FEET! NOT QUICK THINKERS! A JOURNEY OF ALL JOURNEYS! A JOURNEY – !”
“OKAY OKAY okay I’ve signed it! Jeeze! Will you now please for the love of Christ leave me alone now!”
In a swipe Emelius snatched the paper from off the counter, Phillip’s signature naught but an frantic blobby streak shining over it. Peering into the contract, as if checking its legitimacy, Emelius plucked his glasses from off his nose and calmly stated, “Very good, Mr. Drury.” and in his hand the page suddenly flared and flew into flames, Phillip leaping from off his stool and watching the fire plume high into the bar, popping one of the lights and giving a yelp, Phillip stumbled and toppled over like an oaf.
He looked frantically left and right, heat racing. Not a one, not a single person in the bar reacted. In fact, he began to realize, it was like he and Emelius weren’t even there.
“What the – ” he gasp, and then the ground beneath him began to shake. He fumbled over the floor, knocking a stool over and scrambling backward, thunking against the wall as in horror he saw an enormous crack, slip, slither like a lightning bolt over the tile, popping and zipping towards him, widening and swallowing tables and bottles and people; none reacting as they just tumbled like dolls into the dark crevasse. The thundering breaking of the earth became monumental, and Phillip heard yelling and suddenly realized it was himself, screaming at the top of his lungs. What was happening?! Was this a dream! He had to be dreamin – !
“No dream, Mr. Drury!” Emelius shouted over the mayhem, and Phillip turned and saw Emelius across the collapsing bar, at the door, his hand on the handle.
“Don’t leave me!” Phillip screamed.
“I’m afraid there is nothing I can do! You signed a contract.” Emelius held up the rolled parchment, “Ado to you, Phillip Michael Drury! And good luck! Perhaps we will see each other again on the other side of the Universe!”
“No! NOOOOOOOOOO!” Phillip screamed, his heart exploding, his legs flailing, his mind fumbling and feeling like it was drowning and then – !
He felt his feet give way, and darkness and whooshing air took him, and then, like a illusion or a warp of reality, a string of miraculous color flumed over him, seconds of freefall and chaos. Then, like a whipping crash test dummy, he blew out of a cloud, and realized he was flying over a vast mountain range, and in awe he saw a tree – the size of a god – a trunk the size of a mountain itself, blooming from a mountain peak and towering over him, its massive canopy overtaking the sky, a tangled web of branches and white mist, like a membrane, goliath and astonishing. Amazement struck him, so deep his fear left.
What…is this place? he thought. And then a roar met his ears and he looked down, and plunged into a vibrant sea.